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  • Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

    I recently saw in a thread where someone stated the many of the doctrines in the church today started out with in the Gnostic sect. I found that interesting and did some research. Consider this thread a chance to talk about the biblical basis for your belief and to trace the history of said belief through history. Admittedly, I have done little research on the matter yet. Having just started, I am intrigued. Here is the link to the second article I read on the subject.

    http://openairoutreach.wordpress.com...stic-doctrine/

    I don't know anything about the people that wrote the article because I am just getting started. But he quoted Calvin in something that I found fascinating.

    Regarding the term “free will,” John Calvin admitted “As to the Fathers, (if their authority weighs with us,) they have the term constantly in their mouths…”31 He said, “The Greek fathers above others” have taught “the power of the human will”32 and “they have not been ashamed to make use of a much more arrogant expression calling man ‘free agent or self-manager,’ just as if man had a power to govern himself…”33 He also said, “The Latin fathers have always retained the word ‘free will’ as if man stood yet upright.”34 It is a fact that cannot be denied even by those who most ardently oppose the doctrine of free will, that the doctrine of free will and not that of inability was held by all of the Early Church.


    Here are the footnotes he referred to.

    31. John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume One, Published by Calvin Translation Society, 1845 Edition, p. 308)
    32. John Calvin (An Equal Check to Pharsaism and Antinomianism by John Fletcher, Volume Two, p. 202, Published by Carlton & Porter)
    33. John Calvin (A Treatise on Predestination, Election, and Grace, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical by Walter Arthur Copinger, Published by James Nisbet, 1889 Edition, p. 320)
    34. John Calvin (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 60, Published by Truth in Heart)
    I find it fascinating that Calvin basically threw out the entire early church Father's teaching on free will and went with Augustine. Augustine came out the Gnostic movement. It appears that after he got saved, he believed in "Free will" but later changed his mind when debating Pelagius. It also appears that Gnostics believed man was bound and had no free will at all and was totally depraved.

    That's about as far as I have gotten and have not researched much further. But I am interested in many things.

    For those of you that think depravity of the will is not true, then how do you handle Romans 7?

    For those of you that think man is completely and totally deprived, how do you handle the apparent universal belief among the early church fathers in free will? (I am not asking you about biblical references here simply because I have seen your responses to things like John 3:16 and the like but feel free to give them if you wish.)

    Grace to you,

    Mark
    Matt 9:13
    13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
    NASU

  • #2
    Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

    Originally posted by Brother Mark View Post
    I recently saw in a thread where someone stated the many of the doctrines in the church today started out with in the Gnostic sect. I found that interesting and did some research. Consider this thread a chance to talk about the biblical basis for your belief and to trace the history of said belief through history.

    Admittedly, I have done little research on the matter yet. Having just started, I am intrigued. Here is the link to the second article I read on the subject.

    http://openairoutreach.wordpress.com...stic-doctrine/

    I don't know anything about the people that wrote the article because I am just getting started. But he quoted Calvin in something that I found fascinating.

    [COLOR=#333333][FONT=Georgia]

    Here are the footnotes he referred to.



    I find it fascinating that Calvin basically threw out the entire early church Father's teaching on free will and went with Augustine. Augustine came out the Gnostic movement. It appears that after he got saved, he believed in "Free will" but later changed his mind when debating Pelagius. It also appears that Gnostics believed man was bound and had no free will at all and was totally depraved.

    That's about as far as I have gotten and have not researched much further. But I am interested in many things.

    For those of you that think depravity of the will is not true, then how do you handle Romans 7?

    For those of you that think man is completely and totally deprived, how do you handle the apparent universal belief among the early church fathers in free will? (I am not asking you about biblical references here simply because I have seen your responses to things like John 3:16 and the like but feel free to give them if you wish.)

    Grace to you,

    Mark
    Hi Mark,

    One reason the Gnostics held that man was in bondage is from their Greek philosophical ideas. The philosophy of the Greek culture in Jesus' day was that matter was inherently corrupt. Having been taught this thinking Christianity was a whole new concept to them. The problem was that many tried to fit Christian teaching into their Greek philosophy. For instance, Jesus coming as the Christ presented a major problem for the Greek mind. If matter was inherently corrupt that meant that the flesh was inherently corrupt. They had a problem trying to reconcile how the Christ who was pure could inhabit a flesh body that was corrupt. They developed several ways to deal with this problem. Some said that Jesus was not the Christ, but rather that Jesus was a man like every man and that the Christ simply came dwelt in Jesus until he went to the cross at which point He left him. Others said that Jesus was not real but only appeared to be a real man, kind of like a ghost. This is the major issue John deals with in both his gospel and first two epistles. He begins both his gospel and his first epistle proving that Jesus "Is" the Christ, they are one and the same. Another big problem they had was the resurrection of the body. They believed that since the flesh was corrupt and the Spirit was pure that there was no point in a resurrection of the body. They saw the spirit being in body as trapped within this material world. To them salvation was to escape the bonds of the flesh and ascend to through the heavens to the father/mother. It is what the heavenly destiny doctrine is today. The Gnostics taught that the goal of the Christian was to ascend into heaven upon death. That is not what the Church taught. See the dichotomy they had created between the spirit and the flesh one can easily see how they would draw one of two conclusions. Some Gnostics said that since the flesh was corrupt they needed to live as righteously as possible, others said that since the flesh is corrupt and the body will die anyway it didnít matter who they lived, they spirit was pure and would be saved. Some went so far as to say one must indulge in every conceivable wickedness because it was through these experiences that one gained knowledge and it was knowledge that would ultimately get one into the heavens. We see the same thing in Calvinism today. Some hold that one must live a righteous life while others say nothing they can do will cause them to lose salvation so their lifestyle doesnít matter.

    To answer your question in regard to Romans 7, I have heard the some Scholars believe that in that passage Paul is referring to himself before he became a Christian, while he was still living under the Law.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

      Originally posted by Butch5 View Post
      Hi Mark,

      One reason the Gnostics held that man was in bondage is from their Greek philosophical ideas. The philosophy of the Greek culture in Jesus' day was that matter was inherently corrupt. Having been taught this thinking Christianity was a whole new concept to them. The problem was that many tried to fit Christian teaching into their Greek philosophy. For instance, Jesus coming as the Christ presented a major problem for the Greek mind. If matter was inherently corrupt that meant that the flesh was inherently corrupt. They had a problem trying to reconcile how the Christ who was pure could inhabit a flesh body that was corrupt. They developed several ways to deal with this problem. Some said that Jesus was not the Christ, but rather that Jesus was a man like every man and that the Christ simply came dwelt in Jesus until he went to the cross at which point He left him. Others said that Jesus was not real but only appeared to be a real man, kind of like a ghost. This is the major issue John deals with in both his gospel and first two epistles. He begins both his gospel and his first epistle proving that Jesus "Is" the Christ, they are one and the same. Another big problem they had was the resurrection of the body. They believed that since the flesh was corrupt and the Spirit was pure that there was no point in a resurrection of the body. They saw the spirit being in body as trapped within this material world.
      Got it. Not too many disagree with these statements from what I can gather.

      To them salvation was to escape the bonds of the flesh and ascend to through the heavens to the father/mother. It is what the heavenly destiny doctrine is today. The Gnostics taught that the goal of the Christian was to ascend into heaven upon death. That is not what the Church taught.
      Can you expound on this? I have no idea what is meant by "heavenly destiny doctrine". Please also expound on "what the church taught" that you are referring to above.

      See the dichotomy they had created between the spirit and the flesh one can easily see how they would draw one of two conclusions. Some Gnostics said that since the flesh was corrupt they needed to live as righteously as possible, others said that since the flesh is corrupt and the body will die anyway it didn’t matter who they lived, they spirit was pure and would be saved. Some went so far as to say one must indulge in every conceivable wickedness because it was through these experiences that one gained knowledge and it was knowledge that would ultimately get one into the heavens.
      OK. I see where scripture talks about the body being the temple of God, meaning it is not inherently evil. I also see where the Spirit of God lives in us. Just going to think on this for a while.

      We see the same thing in Calvinism today. Some hold that one must live a righteous life while others say nothing they can do will cause them to lose salvation so their lifestyle doesn’t matter.
      I don't know any Calvinist that think lifestyle doesn't matter.

      To answer your question in regard to Romans 7, I have heard the some Scholars believe that in that passage Paul is referring to himself before he became a Christian, while he was still living under the Law.
      So? Does that still mean he had free will when he was lost? He couldn't choose to do right seems to be the point of Romans 7. Does that not agree with Calvinist thinking? (I have my own thoughts on this issue but am wanting to hear more from those that are directly opposed to total depravity first.)

      Thanks Butch for taking the time to explain. I really appreciate it.
      Matt 9:13
      13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
      NASU

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

        I think many carry "total depravity" too far. They extrapolate the term to mean that we are so depraved we can't make a decision to believe. I think that therein lies the error. I hold to total depravity but I don't think the term demands that I cannot freely choose to believe and thereby gain the grace for full repentance.
        Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

          Originally posted by shepherdsword View Post
          I think many carry "total depravity" too far. They extrapolate the term to mean that we are so depraved we can't make a decision to believe. I think that therein lies the error. I hold to total depravity but I don't think the term demands that I cannot freely choose to believe and thereby gain the grace for full repentance.
          I understand. But is depravity then "total" depravity if you still have the ability to choose? Would not what you describe be better stated as "depravity of man" instead of the "total depravity of man"?
          Matt 9:13
          13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
          NASU

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

            Did Agustine corrupt the church with Gnostic doctrine ?

            Talk about a loaded question. What i would like to see is a lots of quotes from Augustine compared with Gnostic teachings and the Bible, and let us see for ourselves the corruption. Unfortunately this is lacking, I came out of Catholicism so if i teach people i will be corrupting people with catholic doctrine, this is the logic being used here. There is no doubt Augustine was heavily influenced by Manichaeism prior to conversion, and i dont hold to everything Augustine says but given the choice between Augustine and Palagius i know where i'll be going.

            Pelagius, who is historically known for teaching free will in the days of Augustine, was in perfect agreement with the Early Church on this point. He said, “In all there is free-will equally by nature…”

            It seems from the above quote the blogger is a advocate of Pelagianism, I dont think this is an unreasonable inference for me to make. I do not agree with Pelagianism at all, so no surprise i'm not on board.

            If you would like the other side to weigh up the argument, you can listen to lectures about Augustine warts and all rather than read through the city of God and his confessions. Great resource site. I highly recommend listening to the lectures on Athanasius also !

            http://www.theologynetwork.org/historical-theology/

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

              Originally posted by Nobunaga View Post
              Did Agustine corrupt the church with Gnostic doctrine ?

              Talk about a loaded question. What i would like to see is a lots of quotes from Augustine compared with Gnostic teachings and the Bible, and let us see for ourselves the corruption.
              I am hoping that comes out of the thread.

              Unfortunately this is lacking, I came out of Catholicism so if i teach people i will be corrupting people with catholic doctrine, this is the logic being used here.
              Not at all! Such logic would require us to treat Paul the same way. He was a Pharisee and thus his doctrine was tainted. What is being suggested is that the early church fathers did not believe in total depravity to the extent that man could not choose and that such doctrine was introduced by Augustine several hundred years after Christ. It just so happens that a similar doctrine was taught in a sect that Augustine held to. Is there a line that can be drawn? I am not sure yet. But I do find it interesting.

              There is no doubt Augustine was heavily influenced by Manichaeism prior to conversion, and i dont hold to everything Augustine says but given the choice between Augustine and Palagius i know where i'll be going.
              Well, teach us about each. I am open to hearing both sides.

              Pelagius, who is historically known for teaching free will in the days of Augustine, was in perfect agreement with the Early Church on this point. He said, “In all there is free-will equally by nature…”

              It seems from the above quote the blogger is a advocate of Pelagianism, I dont think this is an unreasonable inference for me to make.
              I can agree with some beliefs that a heretic may hold if those particular beliefs are true. I don't see this debate as Pelagius against Augustine. Both had issues, no doubt. But I am curious about tracing the beliefs through history.

              Question: Do you know of any of the early church fathers that held man did not have the ability to choose to trust God? We know Augustine did. Anyone else prior to him?

              I do not agree with Pelagianism at all, so no surprise i'm not on board.
              I don't think the author was a full supporter of Pelagius either. But maybe I am mistaken.

              If you would like the other side to weigh up the argument, you can listen to lectures about Augustine warts and all rather than read through the city of God and his confessions. Great resource site. I highly recommend listening to the lectures on Athanasius also !

              http://www.theologynetwork.org/historical-theology/
              Care to break some of it down for us in the thread?
              Matt 9:13
              13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
              NASU

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

                I would like to suggest something for this thread. I think it would be most beneficial if we tried as much as possible to provide "Prmiary" sources. We find writers who agree and disagree with Agustine and the ECF's,if we really want the truth let's try to stay with the writings of the authors themselves.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

                  Can you expound on this? I have no idea what is meant by "heavenly destiny doctrine". Please also expound on "what the church taught" that you are referring to above.
                  Iíve got to be careful with this one because itís not popular on the board. Because they saw the body as being corrupt their idea of salvation was to be freed from the body, therefore a resurrection of the body was simply a return to corruption. This idea was creeping into the church even in Paulís day. He writes to the Corinthians.
                  12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
                  13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
                  14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
                  15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
                  16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
                  17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1Co 15:12-17 KJV)

                  There were different beliefs in Gnosticism similar to denominations, however, they generally believed that to be saved one had to have certain knowledge (Gnosis) which of course they had. They claimed that the apostles had given them special knowledge that they did not make available to all Christians. It was through this life that one attained this knowledge. Upon death one would ascend through different spheres (heavens) to reach the Pleroma which means the fullness. This ascending into the heavens was not taught by the earliest Christians, those directly connected to the apostles. However, by as early as the year 200 AD it was making entrance into the church. Those taught by the apostles taught that the Christians destiny was not heaven but rather was to enter into the kingdom of God on the restored earth and that it was this earth that is the destiny of the redeemed. And this teaching can be found throughout Scripture.
                  I don't know any Calvinist that think lifestyle doesn't matter.
                  I do. I have a friend who believes this. He also believes that his soul cannot sin but that only his flesh can sin. One can clearly see the Gnosticism in his theology
                  So? Does that still mean he had free will when he was lost? He couldn't choose to do right seems to be the point of Romans 7. Does that not agree with Calvinist thinking? (I have my own thoughts on this issue but am wanting to hear more from those that are directly opposed to total depravity first.)

                  Thanks Butch for taking the time to explain. I really appreciate it.
                  Youíre wlecome! To tell you the truth, I have not studied this a great depth that is why I presented it as some Scholars have said. I would have to look more deeply into this to really expound on it further.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

                    Originally posted by Brother Mark View Post
                    I understand. But is depravity then "total" depravity if you still have the ability to choose? Would not what you describe be better stated as "depravity of man" instead of the "total depravity of man"?
                    Not if the term is a synecdoche. I agree we are totally corrupt but that we can always make a decision. The alternative,makes us automatons with no choice in the matter.
                    It places the entire responsibility for choice on God. An unsavory accusation against justice.
                    Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

                      Originally posted by Butch5 View Post
                      I would like to suggest something for this thread. I think it would be most beneficial if we tried as much as possible to provide "Prmiary" sources. We find writers who agree and disagree with Agustine and the ECF's,if we really want the truth let's try to stay with the writings of the authors themselves.
                      Sounds good to me. But to be quite honest, I am not so good at this kind of research. Most of my research has been strictly looking at scripture and speaking with my fellow believers about doctrines.

                      I look forward to more direct resources in this thread. I will admit that was one reason I quoted the article above was that he quoted Calvin directly. But even I know that those quotes could be taken out of context.
                      Matt 9:13
                      13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
                      NASU

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

                        Originally posted by shepherdsword View Post
                        Not if the term is a synecdoche. I agree we are totally corrupt but that we can always make a decision. The alternative,makes us automatons with no choice in the matter.
                        It places the entire responsibility for choice on God. An unsavory accusation against justice.

                        OK. What you teach is different than what the calvinist teach even though you both hold to the same term. I think I believe in the depravity of man but not the "total depravity" of man. But that's for my simplicity in thinking not saying it's technically right.
                        Matt 9:13
                        13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
                        NASU

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Free will vs total depravity and gnosticism

                          Originally posted by Butch5 View Post
                          I’ve got to be careful with this one because it’s not popular on the board.
                          I understand. Especially since you refer to 1 Cor. 15. There's a tough verse or two in there that follows what you referred to that rarely people address at all!

                          Because they saw the body as being corrupt their idea of salvation was to be freed from the body, therefore a resurrection of the body was simply a return to corruption. This idea was creeping into the church even in Paul’s day. He writes to the Corinthians.
                          12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
                          13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
                          14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
                          15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
                          16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
                          17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1Co 15:12-17 KJV)

                          There were different beliefs in Gnosticism similar to denominations, however, they generally believed that to be saved one had to have certain knowledge (Gnosis) which of course they had. They claimed that the apostles had given them special knowledge that they did not make available to all Christians. It was through this life that one attained this knowledge. Upon death one would ascend through different spheres (heavens) to reach the Pleroma which means the fullness. This ascending into the heavens was not taught by the earliest Christians, those directly connected to the apostles. However, by as early as the year 200 AD it was making entrance into the church. Those taught by the apostles taught that the Christians destiny was not heaven but rather was to enter into the kingdom of God on the restored earth and that it was this earth that is the destiny of the redeemed. And this teaching can be found throughout Scripture.
                          I agree with you in this as far as I understand what you are saying. We will be in the New Jerusalem and New Earth. Also, I do believe the kingdom of God is for the here and now and not only some future event. It is both. Also, I do believe we will be in heaven until the new earth and new Jerusalem are built.

                          I do. I have a friend who believes this. He also believes that his soul cannot sin but that only his flesh can sin. One can clearly see the Gnosticism in his theology
                          I could understand better if he said his spirit would not sin, that part of Him born of God. It would check him and tell him no. But I am not sure even this is correct. Sometimes the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Seems to me the soul and flesh work together in sin.

                          Also, I think at some point, sin will need to be clearly defined. I think a lot of things are considered sin today that are not sin.

                          You’re wlecome! To tell you the truth, I have not studied this a great depth that is why I presented it as some Scholars have said. I would have to look more deeply into this to really expound on it further.
                          I am looking forward to this entire discussion.
                          Matt 9:13
                          13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
                          NASU

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

                            There's a WHOLE lot of ground between full-blown Pelagianism and even a modestly-extreme post-Calvin Reformed view.

                            This is all SO unnecessary. Is anyone ever going to contrast God's will (thelema) with man's will (boulema)?

                            Boulema cannot inherently accomplish that which it resolves and takes counsel to do. The Reformed accusations are irrelevant. Even Pelagius could not effect his own salvation. There is no compromise of God's sovreignty to insist man has a cooperative choice in fulfilling God's will THROUGH OUR OWN.

                            The will is a soul faculty. It was originally designed to accomplish everything in synergy with God's OWN will by being conjoined with our spirit and its communion faculty. The soul lost that innate access to God's will, but remains self-functional. There's no need for double-throwdown predestination and all the other trappings. Just a thorough understanding of man's constitution.

                            I'd say it would also be a great help if everyone would suspend their constraint of thought to time-space-matter based reasoning. Maybe someone could define "past, present, and future" in an eternal realm. This whole argument is poor metaphysics.

                            For God, is time linear and sequential with elapsation?

                            Is time created? Or does it govern God himself?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Free will, total depravity, and gnosticism

                              Originally posted by PneumaPsucheSoma View Post
                              There's a WHOLE lot of ground between full-blown Pelagianism and even a modestly-extreme post-Calvin Reformed view.
                              Agreed!

                              This is all SO unnecessary.
                              Perhaps. But if it does bring understanding, is that not helpful?

                              Is anyone ever going to contrast God's will (thelema) with man's will (boulema)?

                              Boulema cannot inherently accomplish that which it resolves and takes counsel to do. The Reformed accusations are irrelevant. Even Pelagius could not effect his own salvation. There is no compromise of God's sovreignty to insist man has a cooperative choice in fulfilling God's will THROUGH OUR OWN.
                              I think this is the central argument for sure. It's the reason I do not like the term "free will". Nor do I like the idea of "sovereignty" as presented by the Calvinist.

                              Brother, would you please expound further on these issues you post above about the will? I would b interested in what you have to say.

                              The will is a soul faculty. It was originally designed to accomplish everything in synergy with God's OWN will by being conjoined with our spirit and its communion faculty. The soul lost that innate access to God's will, but remains self-functional. There's no need for double-throwdown predestination and all the other trappings. Just a thorough understanding of man's constitution.
                              I think we are going to agree a lot in this thread. I am still curious as to the history of "total depravity" as it's being taught today though and that is part of why I started the thread.

                              I'd say it would also be a great help if everyone would suspend their constraint of thought to time-space-matter based reasoning. Maybe someone could define "past, present, and future" in an eternal realm. This whole argument is poor metaphysics.

                              For God, is time linear and sequential with elapsation?

                              Is time created? Or does it govern God himself?
                              I will have to think about this one. It is something I have considered a little before. The last statement is one I have wrestled with little, but some. Care to expound?
                              Matt 9:13
                              13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
                              NASU

                              Comment

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